Tosa West First Time Voters Participate In Midterm Elections

Tosa West First Time Voters Participate In Midterm Elections

Camille Socol

Tosa West Senior Eleanor Hannan is looking forward to voting on November Eighth for candidates who will best represent her interests. “Some of it’s fear. I worry about the state of our world, and I worry about my future and I want people who are going to serve me and my peers well in power.”

The Midterm Election, falling midway through a presidential term decides many important state positions in government. At Wauwatosa West, large-ticket items such as the Gubernatorial race between Tony Evers and Tim Michels and the Senatorial race between Mandela Barnes and Ron Johnson, are on the students’ ballot. While these votes seem smaller than the Presidential Election, they are no less important. 

Even Local candidates recognize the importance of encouraging first time voters to cast their ballot.  

“I absolutely see significance in getting young people out to vote. Voting breeds engagement in both your community and your country and it makes you pay more attention to what is going on. If you vote you have a vested interest and arguably, a greater right to criticize when your government doesn’t do the things you think it should do,” said Mike Van Someren, candidate for Wisconsin’s fifth district in the United States House of Representatives.

Many Wauwatosa West students echoed similar opinions on young voters. 

“I think [voting] is really important. This is legislation that will affect us because we’re so young, we have so much time for everything to impact our lives and we’re coming of age so it’s very, very important in my opinion,” said Hannan.

Other students brought up the idea of the importance of the ideologies of younger generations assimilating into the government. 

“Honestly, I feel like the older generation or the people in power are of an older generation with older values. And I feel that for our times, young people need to go to the polls because our values are more established for these times and I’ll be saying that when I’m 75, because the time[s] will be changing and with [that,] people’s values change, so [young people should] be willing to go to the polls,” said senior Charlie Skrate.

In the weeks leading up to the midterm election, the media is full of advertisements and celebrity endorsements including the likes of Billie Eilish, Taylor Swift, and Olivia Rodrigo encouraging young people to register and get to the polls. 

An estimation from Tisch College found that only fifty percent of eighteen and nineteen year olds voted in the 2020 election. While fifty percent is a major increase from the 2016 election, and high in terms of general turnout, half of eligible teenagers did not cast a vote. 

Wauwatosa West Social Studies teacher Chris Benes thinks one reason the other fifty percent didn’t cast their vote is because they don’t care.

“‘It’s [the idea that]my vote doesn’t matter.’ Part of it is apathy. You might watch a political ad and think ‘The issue they’re talking about doesn’t really matter to me, I don’t care.’I think it’s usually, they’re not too politically involved, they don’t really care about the issues that are being talked about, they don’t think are relevant to them or again, ‘my vote [can’t] change anything’,”

Another aspect that many touched on was the lack of knowledge surrounding who they were voting for. 

“[I know] the people running for Senate and the people running for governor pretty well, but attorney general, and other people that have random offices, I don’t know [anything about],” said senior and first-time-voter Elijah Lovely.

In preparation for the election some students have made sure they know who and what is on the ballot, “I actually looked into it myself, so I’m not just randomly picking someone to vote for,” said senior and first-time-voter Jeffery Richardson.

Many students knew the candidates running for the U.S. Senate and Governor positions, but were unaware of those representing them on a district level or local level. However, the significance of these positions are no less important. Statewide races receive a lot of media attention because they affect a larger number of people. Positions such as Governor and State Assembly are important, but citizens have easier access to local officials for directing concerns.“The government services that impact our day to day lives the most are mostly decided at the local level. Trash service, new housing, new businesses, libraries, etc. are all local decisions that are approved by local elected leaders,” said Van Someren.

Students that expressed excitement about voting all echoed similar statements: encouragement and support from family and friends to engage in the election process.

“My mom was the one that was actually telling me about [going to vote] last year. You know, going up the polls and that’s what we’re gonna be doing on November Eighth,” said Richardson.

Studies such as one conducted by McGill University and the University of Helsinki found a strong association between parents who vote and the likelihood of their adult children voting. “My parents have both been very enthusiastic about me voting. A lot of my teachers have reminded me to register and it’s something that I personally have always been really excited to do as well,” Hannan stated.

A Life-long voter had a similar response, “I remember my parents always voting and talking about how important it was and so I don’t think twice about it,” said Benes.

Many students have already registered to vote for the Midterm Election on November Eighth. They expressed surprise at the simplicity of registering. “It was actually super easy. You look up how to register to vote and it’s right there and you [register] in two minutes. It was crazy. I was shocked,” said Lovely.

Similar opinions were reiterated by Hannan,“It was so easy, it probably took me three minutes. I did it on my 18th birthday. I made a big production of it with my friends. So easy. All you need is your driver’s license.”

While online registration has closed, registration is still available at the polling place on election day.

Students are motivated to vote by recognizing their involvement in government, “You’re really making a decision of who you want to be in charge of things. So I guess that’s what’s important to me,” said Richardson.

Similarly, Skrate spoke about the impact of a single vote in government, “The instability of our country. I feel that voting the right people in is the best idea and everyone has different opinions. Putting other people in is very important and ignoring elections, even though [they seem small], can make a really big difference.”

Overall, many students see the value in their vote and want to encourage their peers to do the same, “I hope that a lot of my generation is as positive and persistent as I am about voting,” said Skrate.